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Greencastle Rescue Hose Co. minstrel show continues long-standing tradition this weekend

February 26, 2013|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, Pa. — A Greencastle tradition continues Thursday as the Rescue Hose Co. kicks off three nights of hilarity and song with its annual minstrel show.

This year’s show, “An Al Jolson Minstrel,” will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Greencastle-Antrim High School auditorium.

Tickets cost $5 for adults and $3 for children 10 and younger.

Every year, roughly 3,000 people come to listen to the end men (funny men) dressed in mismatched “hobo” clothes crack jokes on stage or listen to the 70-member chorus sing old favorites.

The show is a fundraiser for the Rescue Hose Co. fire department. Last year, the event raised more than $6,000.

Russ Clever, director of the Minstrel Show, said the event has a long history in the area.

“A lot of people know the people on the stage and that makes it fun,” Clever said. “It’s good, clean family entertainment.”

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The show has stayed popular because it stays true to an old-fashioned minstrel format, he said.

“Everybody is tempted to get into variety and I think that ruins them. You can turn on TV and see the best singers and best baton twirlers. I think it’s because we kept the traditions. We kept the songs and we didn’t try to change things,” Clever said.

This year’s theme will highlight the songs of Al Jolson, singer and songwriter who performed in vaudeville and minstrel shows in the early 1900s.

“To me, he was one of the greatest entertainers who ever lived,” Clever said.

Some of the Jolson songs that the minstrel troupe will perform are: “Swanee,” “My Mammy,” “California Here I Come” and “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby.”

Clever and Ben Thomas will perform skits in the show as the premiere end men.

Tom Shook, Harry Gsell, Larry Keener and Todd Roland also are serving as end men.

C. Gregory Hoover is the interlocutor, or master of ceremonies, acting as the straight man for the hijinks on stage.

Bud Wolfe and his son Dave will play the bones, wooden instruments made from ebony wood, at this year’s show.

“We love to do it. You make people laugh and smile and maybe for a few hours forget their troubles. For me and everybody in the show it’s a wonderful thing to see people laugh,” Clever said.

Hoover said the hobo minstrel show has always had a theme, and this year’s Jolson theme has been done a number of times in the organization’s 78-year history.

There have been no concerns expressed about the name of this year’s minstrel show, he said.

Hoover said the theme of the show is to reflect the song choices being used in the show.

“A lot of minstrel shows from the past used songs Jolson did,” Hoover said.

In conjunction with the Minstrel Show, Greencastle Rotary Club will hold an All You Can Eat Spaghetti Dinner on Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Greencastle-Antrim High School cafeteria. Tickets cost $7 for adults and $4 for children ages 6 to 12. Children 6 and younger are free. The dinner benefits the Lilian S. Besore Memorial Library.

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